When you picture people going hungry, you might think of children in impoverished nations, but the truth is there are those without food much closer to home. While some of those that go hungry in the United States are children, a large percentage are seniors that live daily with food insecurity.
What is Food Insecurity?
Food insecurity happens when a person does not have access to enough fresh, healthy food at all times to live an active and healthy life. In 2013, up to 14.3 percent of all households in the United States were food insecure at one time or another.
In 2014, 9% of all seniors — 5.7 million — were food insecure and in 2015, 8% of households with a senior experienced food insecurity. As the youngest baby boomers reach the age of 60, food insecurity is expected to increase by 50%.
How Does Food Insecurity Impact Seniors?
Food insecurity impacts senior’s health in several ways. Food insecure seniors were 40% more likely to experience congestive heart failure due to poor diet, 53% more likely to have a heart attack, 60% more likely to suffer from depression, and 52% more likely to have asthma. Also, seniors who are food insecure report fair or poor health twice as often as those with uninterrupted access to food.
In addition, seniors have a more difficult time protecting themselves from food insecurity than the general population. Even though some of these seniors have the money to purchase food, they have limitations such as no transportation to grocery stores. Also, their health and ability to function can often leave them unable to prepare the food once purchased.
Finally, seniors are less likely to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) even when they are qualified.
How to Stop Senior Hunger
There are many ways you can help older adults combat senior hunger. From volunteer groups to lifestyle changes, your actions can help a senior in your life or your community have better access to fresh and healthy food each and every day. Some ways you can get involved include:
- Drive local seniors to shop for food. – If there are seniors in your community that can’t drive or are housebound offer to take them to the grocery store or offer shop for them.
- Join Meals on Wheels. – As a volunteer, you can deliver hot meals to seniors who can’t provide for themselves.
- Start a cooking class in your neighborhood. – Consider teaching a cooking class in your community that shows seniors how to prepare nutritious meals on a tight budget.
- Take part in a food drive. – Most communities have food drives that you can join by either donating food or your time. If your community doesn’t have one, consider starting one.
Senior hunger and food insecurity is an issue everyone should know about. And just about anyone can help. You can start by making sure a senior loved one in your life has access to food and has the ability to prepare that food every day. By getting involved, you can have a direct impact on the health and quality of life for a senior in your life and in your community.
Have you gotten involved in helping ease senior hunger and senior food insecurity in your community? What have you done in your area? How have you seen those efforts help on a personal level? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.